Colin Coates: Numbers game adds up as experienced Glenavon defender looks to win back place in team

By Mark SterlingBBC Sport NI
Colin Coates
Coates is close to completing a year with Glenavon
Irish Premiership: Glenavon v Glentoran
Venue: Mourneview Date: Saturday, 23 January Time: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live stream and live text commentary on the BBC Sport NI website

Glenavon defender Colin Coates believes he can play for another "two or three years" in the Irish Premiership - and has the statistics to prove it.

The end of January will mark a year since the the former Crusaders captain's arrival at Mourneview Park after a shock exit from Seaview.

Coates, 35, has been left on the Lurgan Blues' bench for the last four outings, but, as his team prepare to host Glentoran in BBC Sport NI's live stream on Saturday evening, he is looking forward to the future with confidence.

"There is no reason why I can't play until I am 37 or 38," he said.

"Our manager places a lot of faith in statistics and a lot of our training is all monitored by GPS trackers which show how much ground you cover in training, and the top speeds that you are hitting.

"There is definitely no drop down in those statistics for me, I'm still able to run when I need to run. It is good to have those numbers from a players' point of view, to know where you are at physically.

"It also gives you nowhere to hide - the stats don't lie and it is great information to have from a player and manager's point of view.

"I have plenty left in the tank. I will want to always play to a certain level and contribute to the team rather than playing just for the sake of playing.

"At the minute I feel like I can. In the last game that I played, when I had got up to speed against Ballymena, I felt like I was as comfortable as I was three or four years ago."

Frustrations at being left out of the team

Colin Coates
Coates has been one of the Irish League's best defenders during the last decade

There are a number of reasons for it, of course, but Coates has only played eight times for Gary Hamilton's side since making the move from Belfast to Lurgan.

Having been in the side for the opening five matches of this season, the centre-half then missed two games with a hamstring injury and has not been able to win his place back since.

He admitted to being hugely frustrated at having to sit on the bench, but said he is enjoying his time at Glenavon and will be fully prepared when he wins back a starting place.

"Looking back, if I'm being honest it probably took me three or four games to get going at the start of the campaign after a condensed pre-season. I had my best performance against Ballymena but then got my injury," he continued.

"During my whole time in football I've generally always played. I'm not used to sitting on the bench so it has been frustrating.

"You feel like you can contribute to the team and it is difficult when you're not playing, but it's only a matter of time before I get my chance and then it will be up to me to take it.

"You do not go to training on cold, wet nights to run about in the mud just because you enjoy it, you do it so you are ready to play on a Saturday. So when you are not in the team it is difficult and we don't even have Under-20s games at the minute where you can get match practice.

"It is not an ideal situation, but it is one of those things you have to deal with. Luckily I will have the experience to manage myself through games even if I haven't played in a while."

Young players 'should look at Gavin Whyte'

Gavin Whyte
Gavin Whyte recently joined Hull City on loan from Cardiff City

Having won a host of trophies during 18 years with the Crues, including three league titles and two Irish Cups, Coates believes he and the other experienced players at Glenavon have an important role to play in helping the younger players develop.

He learnt from successful team-mates early in his career and believes Northern Ireland international Gavin Whyte, who he played with at Seaview, is the perfect example of the importance of listening to senior players.

"Down the years I played centre-half with Jeff Spiers at the start, then Gary Smyth for a while and then during my mid-20s I played alongside Paul Leeman - and even at that age I was still able to learn a lot," he said.

"I was lucky the whole way along that I played with boys who had got so much experience, and I just picked bits off them as I went along. That was the best thing that happened to me.

"I'd like to think as well that I can contribute to the young lads coming through in the Glenavon squad and pass on advice to them, such as the likes of young Daniel Larmour who I have played with at the back a few times.

"One thing that always stuck with me from Gavin Whyte was that, even when he was the best player in the league during his last season at Crusaders and scoring 20-25 goals a season, he still listened to players like Sean O'Neill and myself.

"He listened and took everything on board - and they are the kind of attributes you need to be where he is."

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